Jimmy Carter photo

Bardstown, Kentucky Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting.

July 31, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I finally made it to Bardstown. I'm glad to be here. My wife said that she never has had a better welcome nor made more friends in such a short time than when she came to Bardstown. And she wanted me to tell you thank you and she loves every one of you.

Two and a half weeks ago, I was planning to come to Bardstown myself, but I couldn't get away from Camp David. Every time I started to leave, I had another mess of company come- [laughter] —and I had to stay there and entertain them. But Rosalynn came to represent me.

And I thought a lot about our Nation and what I should do as President. And Sunday night before last, I made a speech about two problems of our country—energy and malaise. Senator Wendell Ford, on the helicopter, said that Bardstown could take care of both of them. He said Kentucky could provide coal for the energy, and Bardstown could provide bourbon for the malaise. As a Baptist, I did not comment. [Laughter]

I am glad to be here.


About 2 weeks ago, I did speak to you about the problems facing our country—a crisis of confidence, the fact that American people in recent years have begun to lose confidence in ourselves, in our neighbors, in our communities, in our churches, in our homes, in our schools, in our government, in our institutions; and also to talk to you about our energy problems. We have become overly dependent on foreign countries for our oil. We get more than 50 percent of all our oil from overseas, and we have to take American dollars, billions of them, every year and export those dollars and jobs overseas and import inflation. And I think it's better for us as Americans to face the facts, and as long as I'm President, I intend to tell you the facts, to tell you the truth, and to ask for your help.

Now, the energy problem is more than just statistics or figures or charts or graphs or speeches. This energy problem threatens the very security of our Nation. It threatens our economic independence. You know what happened in 1973, 1974, when a few OPEC oil-producing countries embargoed the shipment of oil to our Nation. And we've become, since then, even more dependent on foreign oil.

What we must do is to approach this threat to American security just as we have approached threats in the past to our Nation's security, like the Great Depression, the First World War, the Second World War. We are actually in a battle to win our energy independence. It's a battle that all Americans must fight together. It's a battle that I do not intend to lose, did not intend to lose, and I believe with your help, we can win. Will you help me? [Applause]

Now, I don't want to mislead you. There are no easy answers. And some of the things that I propose are going to take a long time, like the synthetic production of fuels. But there are two things that we can do right away. One of them is to quit wasting energy—conservation. It doesn't cost anything. It saves money. It doesn't damage the quality of our lives. Save energy every way you can. And the second thing depends on Kentucky. Kentucky is the Nation's number one producer of coal, and we're going to use a lot of coal in the next few years.

We must see America provide basic energy from America. I would rather burn a ton of Kentucky coal than to see our Nation become dependent by buying another barrel of OPEC oil.

In the last 2 or 3 weeks, I've done a lot of thinking about my job as President-working for world peace, being certain that our Nation was secure, providing jobs for Americans. We've added 175,000 new jobs with the help of your Governor, industry, labor, and all of you in Kentucky in the last 2 years, making the Federal Government more open, more confident, more efficient. All this is part of my job as President.

But a President has an even larger responsibility, and that is to draw on the spirit of America, to call out the best that's in our people, to inspire Americans, and to work with Americans to unite, to combine ourselves together in a common purpose so that we can solve our Nation's problems, no matter what they are.

We do have some problems with energy, with confidence, with inflation, with some remaining unemployment, lot of other things, but we must never forget that America is the strongest and the brightest and the best nation on Earth, and we've got more to be thankful for than we have to complain about.

In that speech 2 weeks ago, I talked about the separation of American people from our Government, particularly in Washington, and, again, those were not just empty words. Now, I can tell you that the Members of the Congress and the Federal employees and the Cabinet members, who work with me, are all filled with dedicated people trying sincerely to do a good job for you. But the more you live in Washington, and the more you talk to each other in Washington, you tend to become insulated from the rest of the Nation, you tend to become isolated from the people of our country. We start getting our ideas from each other, and we start getting our thoughts from each other. We spend too much time reading Federal Government forms and regulations instead of listening to people like you. And we've got to change that and listen to the people like you.

It affects me, too, but I'm determined that I'm not going to' let anything erect barriers between your President and you, and I need for you to help me keep those barriers torn down.

I'll just give you one example, and then I want to answer your questions.

There is no way that we can meet our goals on energy and preserve our Nation's energy independence or our Nation's security without moving toward conservation-and that costs money moving toward solar energy—that costs money—increase production and use of coal to make sure that consumers of electricity don't have to pay too much money; making sure that we have good air and water and land quality so that our children will have a delightful place to live as well; developing synthetic fuels in the future from coal, gas and oil from coal.

These kinds of things cost a lot of money. I don't want to be responsible for putting another tax on the American people to pay for it. What I want to do is to see the Congress pass a windfall profits tax on the oil companies to make sure that all we take from them are taxes, through taxes of profits that they have not earned. In the process, we're going to leave the oil companies with additional income which they can use to produce more oil and more gas within our country. That's a real fair proposition for the oil companies.

As I say, this bill's already passed through the House of Representatives, and now it's in the Senate. And the oil lobby is letting its voice be heard very quietly, very effectively in the halls of the U.S. Congress. There's .only one way to meet that competition. Does anybody know what it is? Right with you right? If you will let your voices be heard, we can prevail.

Now, I would hasten to add that your United States Senators, Dee Huddleston and Wendell Ford, are on my side and they're on your side. But I hope that you will write the other leaders in the Senate, the members of the Finance Committee, and let them know that you believe in the future of our Nation, that you're willing to do your share, and that the passage of the windfall profits tax is an integral part of reaching our energy security that we all want. And if you'll join in with me and with Wendell Ford and with Dee Huddleston, we will prevail, we'll pass the windfall profits tax, we'll have a secure nation and a better life for all Americans in the future.

Now I want to answer your questions. I'm ready for the first question.



Q. Good evening, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Good evening.

Q. My name is Catherine Roberts of Shepherdsville, Kentucky. Yesterday morning I heard on the news there were over 6,000 illegitimate children born last year alone. As a taxpayer, I would like to know if there would be job openings for mothers after the first child whereas the taxpayer would not have to support them, buy them homes I mean, you know, help give them homes and steaks and cars to ride around in.

THE PRESIDENT. I think one of the most important things that we can do in our Nation is to strengthen American families; to cut down on the birth of unwanted children, particularly those who are illegitimate. But once they are born, I don't want to see the child branded for life and deprived of an opportunity to be a healthy and a strong and a prosperous and a happy American.

Now, one thing that we have proposed to the Congress is to reform the welfare laws, to take what money we do collect for welfare payments and not just perpetuate people who are able to work on the welfare rolls. Many people now, because of the confused welfare laws, are better off not working than they are to work, even if they're able to work.

So, I think your question's a very good one, and this is what we're trying to do, to give people who really need welfare payments and who cannot work an opportunity to live a decent life, to provide mothers who want to work a chance to keep their children in a good day care center and get jobs. And people who are able-bodied and don't have children, I don't believe in any welfare payments for them. I think they ought to go to work.


Q. [Inaudible]

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think the mike's working. Come up here and use this one. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, my name is Sean Cantrell, and I live right here in Bardstown. And what would the circumstances have to be before you ration gas, should Congress give you their permission to do so?

THE PRESIDENT. Very good. Thank you. Good question.

I've asked the Congress to give me authority to develop a standby gasoline rationing plan. The House of Representatives is voting on that authority this afternoon.

I just talked to Washington before I came in here, and the predictions are—I can't guarantee it, you don't ever know what Congress is going to do—but the prediction is that this afternoon or tonight the House of Representatives will give me that standby authority. What it means is that I will prepare for gasoline rationing. It will not be implemented. We'll put the rationing plan on the shelf as a standby, but we'll be ready. And if we do have a severe and sustained loss of gasoline, then it will be put into effect.

I hope that it will never have to be implemented. And if I do a good job as President, and if we get a good energy program through the Congress, that I've described to you in my opening remarks, then we won't have to have gasoline rationing. But I would rather have a standby gasoline rationing plan than to see gasoline rationed by price so that only the rich people can afford it. You've only got those two alternatives.

So, I will have a standby rationing plan It will only be implemented if we have a severe shortage that lasts a long time. We need it. I believe we'll have it.

Dan, how about checking all three of the mikes?


Q. Mr. President, I am Juanita Smith of Bullitt County. We have a terrific problem in our county, where our telephone company provides direct service[microphone feedback]—

THE PRESIDENT. You shouldn't have said anything about the telephone company. [Laughter]

Q.—where our telephone systems provide direct service for over half of Bullitt County. The other half, which I am in, do not have the direct service. We have to pay toll charges for every call we make. We have tried to go through the Public Service Commission of Kentucky, but we have failed.

I have personally written to Senator Walter D. Huddleston. I think you might remember me writing to you. I have written to Senator Wendell Ford. We are referred back to the Public Service Commission. We get nowhere from the Public Service Commission.

My question to you, Mr. President: Could you appoint someone that could talk to us and see what they can do to help us secure this service?

THE PRESIDENT. As soon as this program is over, I will not only talk to Julian Carroll, but tomorrow morning I'll get on the telephone, and I will call the chairman of the Public Service Commission and see if I can't help Bullitt County get better telephone service. I'm not guaranteeing you any results, but I guarantee you I'll call them.


Q. Mr. President, my name is McKay Chauvin, and my question concerns the volunteer draft. Each year the Armed Forces are losing valuable manpower, and so my question is, what can you do as President to make the services more attractive to the average American?

THE PRESIDENT. I think so far the volunteer program has worked well. Lately, however, as the unemployment rate has gone down, other jobs in some parts of the country have become much more available. So, we've lost one incentive for young men who couldn't get a job other places, who formerly came into the Armed Forces. Now they can get a job easier than they could in the past, and we are having problems getting enough young people, men and women, to volunteer for the Armed Forces to fill out our quotas.

We're now reassessing the status of whether or not people ought to be registered. I don't see any prospect anytime soon of actually calling people up to a draft, but we might have to have as a precautionary measure registration for the draft just as a standby measure.

As far as making the Armed Forces attractive, we have increased substantially the pay for young people going into the Armed Forces. As you know, there is a superb opportunity for a career training, and I think the living conditions, the food, the rapidity of transfer from one site to another, and the degree of choice you have is much better than it was when I was in the Navy for 11 years as a young person.

So, we might have a standby registration, if I decided it's needed. I don't think we'll have a mandatory draft. We'll do everything we can to make sure that the service in the Armed Forces is satisfactory from a pay and career and living status is concerned.

The most important thing, though, is patriotism. And I think when we can restore to the United States the unity and the confidence and the true sense of love for our Nation, that will be an additional and perhaps the most important incentive for young people to volunteer to serve their country for a couple of years. I hope that happens here in Bardstown and all over the country.


Q. [Inaudible]

THE PRESIDENT. Could you all hear it? The question was, since it appears that the campaign promise that I made to have a separate department of education might soon be fulfilled, would I consider appointing a classroom teacher as the secretary of education.

I will certainly consider it. I don't want to make a promise now, because I really want to wait until the bill does pass. It's already passed the House and Senate in different forms. It's to go through the conference committee, and I don't want to be presumptuous about what kind of person or who I would appoint.

But I will certainly consider a classroom teacher along with others. I can't make a promise that it would be a classroom teacher. Is that fair enough?


Q. I'm Tom Howell, from Hodgenville, Larue County. And my question is, Mr. President, why don't you try to do something about the big oil companies making so much profit?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to mislead you all just to get a round of applause. I believe in the free enterprise system of our country, and I believe that the profit motive is the best incentive to provide the services that we need, the goods we need, as long as it's based on tough competition in the marketplace.

Now, we have seen in our own Nation in the last 10 or 12 years an annual decrease in the amount of oil we are producing. The only break in that downward trend was in 1977, 1978, when the Alaskan oil started coming in. We now get about 1.2 million barrels of oil a day from Alaska. But we've also seen the oil companies misuse the profits they have made. If the oil companies take the profits and invest them back into exploration and the production of additional oil and gas in our country, then I have no objection to their profits being made. But what they've done in the past is buy restaurants and motel chains; they've tried to buy circuses. They've bought department stores. They've taken profits off of oil and gasoline and not put it back in the ground to develop more energy for you and me.

We have introduced now and I support a bill that would prevent any of the 18 largest oil companies from purchasing companies like I've just described, which would force them within all practical bounds to take what profits they do make and produce more oil and gas.

We are also investigating, through the Justice Department and the Energy Department, complaints against the oil companies to make sure that they don't violate the antitrust laws, that is, that they maintain a high degree of competition and that they don't violate regulations or rules or proprieties in the adequate provision of gasoline and oil products for you.

So, to summarize, the profits are okay if the oil companies use them the right way. And it's my responsibility and yours to monitor them to make sure that the oil companies act legally and properly to serve the American people under the free enterprise, which is so dear to us all.


Q. Good afternoon. My name is Buzz Turner, and I'm from Magnolia, in Larue County. Mr. President, as a graduate student of American history at Western Kentucky University, I'd like to know what do you think the history books will remember your administration for, or at least what you hope it will be remembered for?

THE PRESIDENT. I hope that when the record of my administration is written that the historians say that under the Carter administration, our Nation was secure, that our Nation was at peace, that no young American ever shed blood in a foreign war. I hope that our Nation will report—that history will report that under my administration, we've moved to restore the confidence of the American people in their own government. I hope that .the history books will show that I helped to put American people back to work, and I hope that the history books will show that the threats to our security—both from foreign sources and also domestically, like energy shortages—were reduced or removed under my administration. And I hope that the history books will also show that while I served as President that I was honest with the American people when the times were difficult and that I joined in with the American people as partners in searching out the best that's in the hearts and minds of every individual American and that it be expressed in a true sense of patriotism, based on respect for one another, compassion for one another, stronger families, and love for one another. That's what I hope.

Now, you've got to help me make all those wishes come true. I believe they will.


Q. I'm Christina Bradford, and I attend Bardstown Junior High School. Mr. President, in your energy message, you indicated an increase in the use of coal. My question is this: Are you going to allow the coal companies to take advantage of this situation to weaken the Federal stripmining law? And what steps will you take to assure the protection of the environment for future generations?

THE PRESIDENT. Recently I had a report—as a matter of fact, this past week-from what's known as the President's commission on coal. The Chairman of that commission was Governor Jay Rockefeller, from West Virginia, and he and a group of distinguished American leaders, coal operators, environmentalists, representatives of the miners, and others, made a report to me—which is available to all of you, by the way, if you want it-on what we could do to increase the use and the production of coal.

The basic premise on which they based their study was that the environmental laws of our Nation would be carried out completely, that there would be no lowering of standards that would affect the quality of our land, our air, or our water. If we meet those standards of quality of life for Americans and carry out the laws, environmental laws of our Nation, there's an opportunity for us to double the amount of coal that we produce and use, burned cleanly and used cleanly, in the next 6 years to 10 years.

This afternoon I met at a nearby Power plant with about 50 or 60 of the leaders in the Kentucky coal industry—operators, railroad managers, coal miners, and power producers, electric power producers. I told them that the worst mistake that the coal industry could make was to insist upon a lowering of the environmental standards of our Nation. If there's one thing the people of our country fear about coal, is that' it is dirty and it will lower the quality of our life. That is not true. We can burn twice as much coal in this nation and not lower our environmental standards at all. That's what I believe our Nation wants to do, and that's what I'm determined to do with the help of people in Kentucky and every other State that produces coal in our country.


Q. Mr. President, Gary Hutchins from Bardstown, Kentucky. I would like to inquire as to what your administration is doing at present to reduce Government regulations which businesses are operating on daily—and it's costing each consumer, and I mean each man, woman, and child, a hidden tax, actually, of $450 a year. The businesses in total are spending now in excess of what our national defense budget. So, what is being done to cut it down?

THE PRESIDENT. This has been one of the most difficult things I've tried to do as President. I am a small businessman myself, as you know, and went to the White House with a determination to cut down on regulations and forms, reports that are required by the Federal Government by private citizens. I think we've made a lot of progress already.

I remember one day, year before last, when we eliminated a thousand OSHA regulations in one day, and we've cut down the number of forms and regulations, for instance, in HEW, by more than 20 percent already. But we've still got a long way to go.

This was one of the questions raised this afternoon by the coal industry leaders. And I had the Chairman of our regulatory commission with me, Doug Costle-we've got a group of Federal agencies that meet regularly now to make sure that there's no duplication or extra requirements of reports from the business community of our country that's affected by environmental laws. In the past we've had Energy, Interior, Labor, EPA, and all the rest of them requiring separate reports. Now at least they are meeting together.

Another thing that we are going to do that might be interesting to you is to have a small business convention or White House conference this winter. And in preparation for that conference, we have taken 200 sample small businesses around our Nation, and we've sent staff members in to work with that small business leader to say, "What are you required to do by the Federal (government in reports and forms and regulations compliance that might be eliminated?" And those 200 small businesses will be feeding in to me and the other members of the conference their ideas on how we can change weekly reports to semiannual reports; how we can have 5 questions instead of 50 questions; how many forms can be eliminated or how many forms can be combined between the Department of Labor, Commerce, HEW, HUD, and so forth.

So, I think that by the end of this year, when we have that White House conference, we'll make another step forward to eliminating this burden on the American people.

I don't think the American people are ever going to be satisfied, no matter how much progress we make, but we are plugging away at it and we need your help. If you are interested, you might do this: If you have Federal regulations and forms and reports in your own life that you consider to be too frequent or too complicated or not necessary, if you'll let me know directly, I'll do what I can to modify that burden on you. And since I get so many letters, and so forth, if you will send your report to Senator Wendell Ford, he can bring your letter to me, and I'll try to use your case as an example and help other people like you who want to get this burden of regulation and paperwork and redtape off your back. Would you do that?

Okay, Wendell?

SENATOR FORD. Anything you say, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Good. Wendell said he'd be glad to do it—slightly different words.


Q. Mr. President, continued great courage to you. My name is Susan McDonald from Nerinx, Kentucky, and my question concerns the Vietnamese refugees. I nursed in Vietnam from 1973 through 1975. I became aware that Vietnam, during the many years of U.S. involvement, depended heavily on the U.S. Food for Peace program. We left Vietnam in '75, and at that time, severed all food aid. Now there's a scarcity of food in Vietnam, and this scarcity is part of the reason for refugees.

My question is: What is preventing us, the United States, from normalizing relations with Vietnam, giving food aid, and instead of severing that aid abruptly, tapering it off in a humane manner, thereby enabling more people of Vietnam to remain in their homeland?

THE PRESIDENT. We believe that the reason for the refugees is not because of a lack of aid from us to Vietnam. Vietnam is a nation which has not turned to us or to the rest of the world for either friendship or economic aid on any sort of reasonable terms. The Vietnamese have been forcing refugees primarily of Chinese descent—to leave their own country and quite often have been making them pay what money they have saved up to the Vietnamese Government for the right to leave their country under pressure. They've been pushed out from the shores of Vietnam in. ships, and literally thousands of them have died.

In the meantime, the Vietnamese Government has invaded Cambodia, now known as Kampuchea, with 15 divisions of armed forces and violated those international borders.

So, under those circumstances, the pushing out under duress and pressure of thousands of refugees—in May, 50,000 alone-without any care about what happens to those refugees once they leave Vietnam, and attacking their neighbor Kampuchea with 15 divisions of armed forces, I don't think it's time for us to normalize relationships with that country.

What we are trying to do, however, is to recognize the need to take care of those refugees. I met during the weekend, the last weekend I was at Camp David before I made my energy and confidence speech, with a group of young people in Pennsylvania—Carnegie, Pennsylvania. And one of the young married women there said she didn't think we ought to take in any refugees because it was too much of a burden on the American people. And I responded to her, I know a lot of American people feel that way, perhaps, that we've already got enough burdens on the Federal Government, we don't want to pay taxes to take care of other folks. But let me repeat very briefly what I told her.

There is a total of about 220,000 Vietnam refugees that we're going to take into our country. These were our allies and friends during the war. They fought alongside of us; their lives were in. danger. That's one refugee for every thousand Americans. It's not too heavy a burden for Americans to bear.

In addition to that, this is a nation of refugees. I doubt if there are any native Indians here. If so, they would be the only exceptions to the fact that all of our ancestors were immigrants and that many of them came here as refugees—as religious refugees, sometimes as prisoners who were let out of prison just if they would come to the New World. And I believe that our country is big enough and strong enough and rich enough and generous enough to take care of a few refugees from Vietnam that were our allies and friends during the last war. And that's the way I feel, and I thank you for your question.

I might add one other thing. We have had superb results with those Vietnamese who come to our country. They don't know how to speak English, most of them. They immediately begin to learn how to speak English. They are eager to get a job. They get off welfare faster than anybody I have ever seen. They become selfsupporting citizens, and we have tried to place them in communities where the employment rate is very high so they do not contribute to the unemployment rate.

So, we are handling it well, and they are doing their share. I think in a few years, they'll be extremely good American citizens that will make us proud of them and proud of ourselves.


Q. Mike Carney, Mr. President, from Cox's Greek. This is the same line of questioning. You've taken a tough stand on the energy situation. I'd like to know when you're going to take a tough stand on foreign policy in regards to taking up for our allies. For an example, South Korea, Nicaragua, Turkey, and in the past, Iran. And maybe we wouldn't have the energy situation we have today or, for an example, the Panama Canal—if the Government would do what the American people wanted, then we wouldn't have the problem that we've got now.

So, how far does the Government do what we don't want done? And also on the Panama Canal, how far does human rights go, that we don't step in and help our allies and we take over and help the human rights situation?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll try to answer that. The United States keeps its commitment to our allies. I just came from South Korea just 2 or 3 weeks ago. I have never had such an outpouring of a welcome in my life. There were literally millions of people on the street expressing their thanks to America for guaranteeing the independence and freedom of the people of South Korea.

Since I've been in office, we have substantially strengthened our own Nation's military commitment to our Allies in NATO, in Western Europe. We've got new friends that were formerly intimate allies with the Soviet Union. Egypt is a typical example. You can look at the whole coast of Asia now, from South Korea all the way down around to India; in almost every instance, we have a stronger allegiance and a closer friendship with them than we had 2 years ago, 5 years ago, or 10 years ago.

We've got strong, new allies in Africa. I remember, I think, 3 1/2 years ago, Secretary Kissinger wanted to go to Nigeria as the Secretary of State of our country. He was not permitted to come into the nation of Nigeria, a hundred million people, the largest and the strongest nation in Africa. Now they are very good friends of ours.

So, we stand by our commitments without apology and without deviation.

Now, about Panama. I don't have any apology to make at all about the Panama Canal treaties, which, as you know, were ratified by two-thirds of the people in the Senate. This was not a popular thing to do, but, in my opinion, it was the right thing to do. Our Nation's security is much better off having strong and friendly allies in Panama sharing with us the operation and the maintenance and the defense of the Panama Canal instead of having bitter enemies in Panama, knowing that we had broken our faith, violated our word, and mistreated those people in Panama.

Now, the canal is operated from now until the year 2000 jointly by us and Panama. They're our friends; they trust us; we cooperate. After the year 2000, the Panamanians will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the canal. The United States will still have the right and the responsibility and the duty to defend the canal. That's what I believe is in the best interests of our own country.

It would not help us to violate our commitment to Panama, to have the Soviet Union and Cuba come in and try to change that government into a Communist government. Since we ratified the Panama Canal treaties, the Panamanians have had a free election; they have chosen 500-and-something members of their Congress. The Congress members have chosen a brand new President, and Panama is on the road now toward a true democracy.

So, I think that our human rights stand, our treating our allies with good faith, and our keeping our word of honor and making sure that we prepare for our Nation's security in the future all are wrapped up in the record that we've carved out for this administration and for the American people.

I have no apology to make, although the Panama Canal treaties was a misunderstood move that our Government made. It was not politically popular. I don't have any doubt that I lost a lot of political support on account of it, but it was right. And I would rather be right in a case like that, when I'm sure it's for the best interests of our country, even if it does cost me something politically.


Q. How do you do, Mr. President? My name is Tom Brunet, and I'm the director of a drug and alcohol drug treatment unit with North Central Comprehensive Care Center in Elizabethtown. And I would like to lend praise to your administration and to Mrs. Carter in particular for effecting improved mental health services. However, as Secretary Califano exits, do you intend to continue his step-up in alcohol and drug dependency programing and research, as he advocated, or is his absence indicative of a policy modification?

THE PRESIDENT. I have absolute confidence that the new Secretary of HEW, Pat Harris, has the same motivations and the same commitment to health in all its aspects, and also particularly mental health, as did Secretary Califano, who did a very good job.

I know my wife, as you've mentioned, has mental health and the problems of the elderly as her top priorities in her role as First Lady. And I can guarantee you that my wife, Pat Harris, the new Secretary of HEW, myself will be good partners with you in giving our people with mental health problems a better life in the future, including drug addiction as well. You can depend on that.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. I'm Lloyd Bussage from Louisville, Kentucky. Concerning the ratification of SALT II, you as President have called upon the support of the American people to get this SALT II ratified. And yet other domestic leaders are telling the American people differently. For example, General Rowny, the leader of your negotiation team, has resigned—had resigned—and he felt that it was no good, that the Russians were getting the upper hand on negotiations. And just this morning Henry Kissinger stated that he could not support the treaty until American arms and Russian arms were made equal. He felt the Americans were not quite as strong as Russia, and he would not support it until they were brought up to equal. And this sort of puts the American people in a position of being in the middle and not knowing who to believe.

Mr. President, who should we believe, and why?

THE PRESIDENT. Believe me. Also believe the Secretary of State, and also believe the Secretary of Defense. And also believe all the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The top military officer in the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, plus the Chairman of that group, had General Rowny as their subordinate. He was their representative in the negotiations. And they all have testified since he did that the SALT treaty, in balance, is good for our country. They agree basically with what Secretary Kissinger said.

Along with a SALT II treaty—which is good for our Nation—there is a requirement that we meet the defense needs of our Nation. And I'm absolutely determined that our defense needs will be met.

We had a long downward trend in defense expenditures before I became President. We have now reversed that trend, not only in NATO but in overall expenditures as well.

I think one of the problems is that the American people need to support a strong defense. In the last 2 years alone, for instance, when I've made my defense recommendations to the Congress, the Congress has reduced those recommendations by a total of $5 billion.

The Soviets are tough negotiators, but so are we. And there is no doubt in my mind that no matter what level of defense spending we have, whether it's exactly right, $5 billion too low, $5 billion too high, we need the SALT II agreement, the treaty ratified. But what I'm going to do as President is work with the United States Senate and the Congress to have the SALT II agreement, which will give us peace; cut down on the nuclear arms race; let us monitor what the Soviets are doing, control the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout all the rest of the world; stop the Soviets' buildup, which has been faster than ours in the past—all that will come with SALT II. And in addition to that, have a strong defense to make sure our Nation is always as strong as or stronger than the Soviet Union no matter what happens.

That's what I promise you. One more, one more question.


Q. Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Frank Smith, State representative from Shepherdsville, Kentucky. I'd like to request that on your return flight to Louisville, that you make a pass over the Valley of the Drums.

My question is, what are your feelings on a super fund for dealing with hazardous waste materials?

THE PRESIDENT. For dealing with atomic waste materials?

Q. Hazardous wastes.

THE PRESIDENT. Hazardous wastes. We've had nuclear wastes, as you know, for 35 years, and we are now approaching the first recommendation to the Congress on how to deal with nuclear wastes. In addition, we have proposed to the Congress within the last few weeks, after a couple of years of preparation and hard work, a kind of an insurance program for dealing with chemical wastes and poisonous wastes of all kinds.

When a certain quantity of those chemical wastes are sold, there will be an insurance fund built up with a small premium. And then when there comes a time later on that those chemical wastes become a problem, the people who are threatened either with past uncontrolled dumping of wastes or with later deposits of wastes, they will be prevented from suffering, out of that insurance fund—with additional fill, the moving of the leaking barrels, and so forth.

I believe the Congress will act favorably on this, and I think your voice can be a very influential one and get them to do so.

So, in the control of nuclear wastes, which will be proposed to the Congress very shortly, and the chemical and poisonous wastes, which has already been presented to the Congress, I think, for the first time, our Government is moving to deal with the problem that is very serious and which you've pointed out so well.

Let me say this in closing to all of you: I'm very grateful for a chance to be with you. My listening to your questions, my receiving your comments, my shaking hands and having brief conversations with many of you, my coming to Kentucky, my visiting a coal-burning Power plant, my meeting with the coal industry people, my riding with your Congressmen, your Senators, your Governor, candidates for the future—all have given me a much clearer sense of what our Nation is, what its problems are, how to overcome those problems, what our opportunities are, and how we can take advantage of those opportunities.

The last thing I want to say is this: I'll repeat myself—we've got a lot of problems-so has everyone else on Earth-but we still live in the greatest nation in the world. And I want to make sure that all of you kind of take an inventory, count your blessings as an American: food, job opportunities, beauty, natural resources. We've got 24 percent of all the energy on Earth in the United States—the OPEC countries all put together have got less than 5 percent—freedom, the right of an individual American citizen to stand on one's own feet, to make one's own decision, to say one's own speech, to criticize when you think it is advisable; a free enterprise system that encourages innovation and initiative and competition in serving people better; a government based on democratic principles, where you can let your own voice be felt and heard and your own vote be influential, if you cast it. But the responsibility for the future cannot be resting on the shoulders of a Governor or a mayor or a U.S. Senator or a President. The responsibility for the future rests on your shoulders collectively, yours and mine alone, together.

And I believe that if we do count our blessings, analyze our problems, join ourselves together, have confidence in our Nation, fight the good fight together as Americans, there is no doubt in my mind that with God's blessing, we will prevail and we'll make our great Nation even greater in the future.

That's what I'd like to leave with you. God bless you all. He has certainly blessed us.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 5:30 p.m. in the Bardstown High School gymnasium.

Following the town meeting, the President left Bardstown and went to English, Ind., to inspect the flood damage caused by severe storms on July 25. He then returned to Washington, D.C.

Jimmy Carter, Bardstown, Kentucky Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249975

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